Communications Department

National Right to Life radio ad raises question: How can Senator Durbin — who as a congressman wanted Roe v. Wade overturned — now “disqualify” John Roberts?

Sep 12, 2005 | 2005 Press Releases

This release from the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) is issued at 8:30 AM EDT on Monday, September 12, 2005.  For further information, contact NRLC at 202-626-8825 or 202-626-8820, send e-mail to, or visit the NRLC website at
WASHINGTON (Sept. 12, 2005) — A new broadcast ad sponsored by National Right to Life, launched today in eight cities in Illinois (13 radio stations), suggests that Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, a Democratic member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is being unfair in suggesting that Supreme Court nominee John Roberts might be disqualified if Roberts does not accept the legal theory of Roe v. Wade — even though Durbin himself strongly advocated overturning Roe v. Wade when he was a member of the House of Representatives.
The script for the 60-second ad, titled “Disqualified — by Durbin?,” is reproduced at the bottom of this e-mail.  An MP3 audio file of the ad can be played or downloaded at the NRLC website here:
[ca_audio url=”″ width=”500″ height=”27″ css_class=”codeart-google-mp3-player”]
The ad presents a dialogue between two fictional constituents, one of whom notes that Durbin has indicated that he may regard Roberts as disqualified from sitting on the Supreme Court if he will not endorse certain past Supreme Court decisions. 
(In a July 24 interview with NBC News’ Tim Russert, Durbin said that Roberts would be “disqualified” if he did not accept the Supreme Court’s doctrine on the “right of privacy,” and that “it would trouble me greatly” if he thought Roberts might allow state legislatures to restrict abortion.)
The second constituent points out that Durbin himself served as master of ceremonies for annual pro-life rallies for five years, endorsed legislation to allow abortion only to save a mother’s life, and called for the overturning of Roe v. Wade as late as 1989 (after he had served in Congress for six years).  The first constituent, incredulous, then asks, “Durbin now says that Roberts may be disqualified, because Durbin thinks Roberts might, possibly, agree with part of the position that Durbin himself used to strongly advocate?”  In that case, Durbin “needs a refresher course in Fairness 101,” she concludes.
NRLC Legislative Director Douglas Johnson commented, “It is terribly unfair, if not brazenly hypocritical, for Durbin to suggest that a Supreme Court nominee might be disqualified for possibly agreeing with the legal position taken by the Congressman Durbin of 1989.”
National Right to Life has created a special page on its website titled “The Durbin Abortion Papers,” which includes scans (in PDF format) of a selection of letters and candidate questionnaires signed by Durbin, including one in which he boasted of serving as master of ceremonies at pro-life rallies at the Illinois State Capitol for five years, and another in which he pledged support for legislation to protect unborn children from abortion except to save the life of the mother. “The Durbin Abortion Papers” are here:
The page also links to a transcript of the July 24, 2005 interview of Durbin by NBC News’ Tim Russert.
Johnson also noted that Senator Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), the second-ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, wrote a letter about abortion in 1971 in which he said, ” . . . it is my personal feeling that the legalization of abortion on demand is not in accordance with the value which our civilization places on human life.  Wanted or unwanted, I believe that human life, even at its earliest stages, has certain rights which must be recognized — the right to be born, the right to love, the right to grow old. . . .once life has begun, no matter at what stage of growth, it is my belief that termination should not be decided merely by desire. . . . When history looks back to this era it should recognize this generation as one which cared about human beings enough . . . to fulfill its responsibility to its children from the very moment of conception.”
Moreover, Senator Joseph Biden (D-De.), the third-ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, voted in favor of a constitutional amendment to overturn Roe v. Wade (the Hatch Amendment) in 1982.
To read an earlier NRLC release about the relationship of the Roberts nomination to two upcoming abortion cases and to certain “media myths” about Roe v. Wade, click here.  To read the NRLC release issued upon the death of Chief Justice William Rehnquist, click here.
National Right to Life is the nation’s major pro-life organization, with affiliates in all 50 states
[The ad script follows]
“Disqualified — by Durbin?”
    WOMAN:  I read here in the paper about the Senate holding hearings on the nominee to the Supreme Court. Our own senator, Dick Durbin, has suggested that the nominee may be disqualified if he does not support the legal theory of Roe v. Wade.
    MAN:  Oh yeah? Well, let me tell you, the guy sitting there in those hearings served for five years as MASTER OF CEREMONIES at the annual rallies at the State Capitol to protest Roe v. Wade!
      In 1983, he indicated abortion should never be legal, except to save the mother’s life. Six years later, he said, “I continue to believe the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade should be reversed.”
    WOMAN:  (pleasantly) Really? I didn’t KNOW that John Roberts had said all those things!
    MAN:  It wasn’t ROBERTS who said them. It was DURBIN — before he changed his position.
[very slight pause]
    WOMAN:  So you mean . . . Durbin now says that Roberts may be disqualified, because Durbin thinks Roberts might, possibly, agree with part of the position that Durbin himself used to strongly advocate?
    MAN:  Yep.
    WOMAN:  Sounds like Dick Durbin needs a refresher course in Fairness 101.
    MAN:  Call Senator Durbin at 202-224-2152 [in Springfield, 217-492-4062] — urge him to give John Roberts a fair shake. This message brought to you by National Right to Life,